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| Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle | www.mn.catholic.org.au
AS A SMALL child, Bev Adams helped
her father John in his carcass meat
business by counting the beasts coming
from the yards. "I sat on a post at the end
of the dip and every ten beasts that went
past, I had to put a knot in the string. I
was four, and I could count. It was a very
responsible job!" When travelling from
property to property, "I'd sit between
our black tracker Sandfly and my father
and I thought God would be a mixture of
Now 79, she still remembers the pain of
losing the business due to a mis-read
contract. "It was a pretty traumatic time,
because we lost all our money."
Bev had been born in Homebush but
she was only ever happy in the country.
She found school an interruption to her
real interest of helping her Dad; ironic
considering that she became a teacher
many years later. "Because of the
war I found myself at Fort Street Girls
High School, Sydney, which was quite
prestigious. Fort Street took about two
years to break me in -- I don't know why I
wasn't expelled in the first year!"
Following schooldays she began a degree
in Agricultural Science at Sydney University.
One of only six women in the course, she
found the academic side of university
life challenging, because she was more
interested in action than words: "I knew
a hell of a lot about cattle! I'd been on
a property, I'd moved cattle, I'd watched
beasts being killed, I could estimate
their weight, I'd learned to track animals
in the bush." Sandfly had taught her to
track animals by looking for the tree
with a hollow, but, "When you got back
down to Sydney there weren't many trees
When her father announced that he'd
bought a Queensland property, Bev was
happy to move north. "I was Dad's right
hand man" because he had injured his
spine and had limited movement. "He was
dependent on a woman and it took me a
while to learn that if you came in with a
good idea, you planted the seed, watered
it and when it grew, you let him harvest it.
It taught me a lot of things." Sadly, Bev's
father was killed in a plane crash, aged 52.
It's not everyone who can thank a
kangaroo with diarrhoea and a horse with
tetanus for leading her to the love of her
life! When called to the Mackay property,
veterinarian Geoff Adams "left a marked
impression because he ate two helpings
of everything!" Bev, 23, married the rugby
playing New Zealander who wanted to
specialise in treating horses. For such a
man, Australia's Horse Capital, Scone, was
Mecca, although their route to the property
on Dry Creek Road was a circuitous one.
The young couple lived in western Victoria
and the Adelaide Hills but there was a
keen desire to head to the Upper Hunter.
It's clear from Bev's stories that she was
always an equal partner with plenty to
contribute. Their wedding photo shows a
tall, solid man beside an elegant woman
wearing a cream dress "that could be worn
again. I wasn't interested in a dress you
could only wear once." As Bev says, "Once
upon a time, the farmer was a male. Now
the farmer has to run in double harness.
Sometimes I wonder if they do it with any
enthusiasm...you have to be flexible, you
She recalls with glee attempting to turn
right in Melbourne while towing a horse
float. "There's a place where to turn right
you have to pull left. When you've got a
horse float you can't bear left to turn right,
so the policeman stopped all the traffic
and guided me around the corner. It was
hilarious but I wouldn't want to do it again."
In 1968 Geoff was appointed to a position
at Scone and the couple bought a home
at Parkville. Their hope was to acquire
property out of town, but the telephone
was vital for a vet. At that time phone
communication was through the manual
exchange so it was necessary for the
'exchange girls' to connect the household
to a phone line before they went home
each day. This was readily granted,
because Geoff had quickly established a
reputation as a good vet.
Bev and Geoff's arrival, with their daughter
Jacalynne, at Sans Tache (without blemish)
was not uneventful. "The people here were
anti-conservation and I was a greenie."
Neighbouring graziers were shooting
kangaroos because of their numbers in
a completely unregulated way. Bev took it
upon herself to kill those who had been
injured and could not survive, telling
the neighbours that she would cull as
necessary, and there would be no more
Always a woman of action, Bev soon
had the area declared a nature reserve.
"Scientists revealed that it was the last
sandstone outlier of the Hawkesbury
sandstone series, so as the topography
and plants are here now, so it was in
Sydney when settlers first arrived."
It seemed that the Adams family was in a
good place in every sense when a bitter
blow changed everything. Geoff suffered
a fatal heart attack in 1980. As well as
facing loss, Bev and Jackie were not
financially secure. Bev had completed her
degree by correspondence and gained
some teaching experience while living in
South Australia, so when she was offered
a science position at St Joseph's High
School Aberdeen, she was delighted.
"'Seek the truth always' was the school
motto, and that's what I'd always done, so
it felt right."
The Sisters of St Joseph inspired and
encouraged her and she retains fond
memories of that time, despite the
sadness of Geoff's death.
Asked whether living alone on an isolated
property was a concern, Bev says
unhesitatingly: "I don't think I ever thought
about it. I'd get up at five, and do what had
desk at eight, and boy did I do some quick
trips to school!"
Serving as a councillor for 23 years was
another diversion for Bev because, "There
were things that Council were not doing as
well as they should have been!" Convinced
that a proposed expansion to the piggery
outside Parkville would contaminate the
water supply, Bev chartered a plane and
led a group of councillors to visit a similar
facility near Albury-Wodonga. This was the
turning point in the debate and there was
Public service comes naturally to Bev
and she has served on the Premier's
Council for Women, the Rural Women's
Network and the Hunter Economic
Bev recalls that when a long lost cousin
called at Sans Tache, "We just got along.
I thought he was staying for tea and he
stayed for two or three days. Ray had to
return to Sydney but in no time he was
back!" The two married and travelled
around the world, but the marriage was
not destined to be a long one. Ray was
diagnosed with cancer of the spine. Bev
simply says, "I thought we could have had
a bit longer..."
This downplaying of difficulty reflects her
understanding of what is really a vocation:
"The difference between a rural woman and
a city woman is that the rural woman has
to have empathy with the land. Because
you have empathy, you accept it as it is.
You've got to love animals - and I think you
need a fair amount of tenacity...but it's not
hard work if you love it."
For Bev Adams, no hard work's required.
The United Nations International Day of Rural
Women is observed on 15 October. Aurora
visited Beverlee Adams, of Sans Tache,
a Charolais stud and wildlife refuge north of
Scone. Beverlee encapsulates what it means to
be a rural woman, and lots more besides...
of the land
By TRACEY EDSTEIN
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